A crisis in South Africa’s Education System

Earlier this week, the results of the 2017 PIRLS (Progress in Reading/Literacy Study) were released.
Out of 50 countries, South Africa was ranked 50th. The survey additionally found that 78% of South African Grade 4 pupils could not read for comprehension.
The words one could use to describe this state of affairs, words like disgraceful, shocking, unacceptable, abominable, all seem inadequate. In reality, even though South Africa spends more of its GDP on education than most other nations, this result was both utterly predictable and a long time coming. Even in 1994, the World’s economy was a modern one, where skills were essential to earn any sort of decent living. But since the end of apartheid, a string of bad decisions has exacerbated an already inadequate education system.
The first mistake occurred very early on in democracy. Many teacher training colleges were shut down. This is the exact opposite to what needed to happen. Non-white students received education vastly inferior to white students. What was needed was an increase in the number of qualified teachers. By shutting down training colleges, the opposite occurred.
The second blunder was the introduction of Outcomes Based Education (OBE) in the Curriculum 2005 strategy. Many experienced teachers objected very strongly to OBE, knowing full well that South Africa did not meet the prerequisites to successfully implement it. Sadly, they were ignored and overruled. Eventually OBE was abandoned, but by then a lot of damage had been done.
Corruption has also played its part. There have been plausible allegations that officials in the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) have been soliciting bribes for positions. Promises that these accusations would be investigated have come to nought. This may be because SADTU supports the ruling ANC.
Incompetence is rife in the Education system. In 2013 there was a furore when it emerged that more than four months into the school year, a large number of schools in Limpopo Province had not received textbooks for the year. Despite a massive outcry, no attempt was made to identify who (if anyone) was responsible for this failure, and no action was taken against anyone.
There can be no denying that South Africa’s Education system is in crisis. But instead of confronting the reality, successive Ministers of Education have chosen to disguise it by, among other things, lowering the requirements for passing. Until this stops and the issues damaging South Africa’s Education system are faced, things will just get worse.

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I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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